Teens charged with rolling log off cliff that killed photographer face additional charges

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Police: Teens facing additional charges after rolling log off cliff, killing photographer

The two teens charged with the death of Victoria Schafer in Hocking Hills State Park on Sept. 2 now face additional charges and could be tried as adults.

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Jaden W. Churcheus and Jordan A. Buckley were originally charged with reckless homicide in the death of Schafer after the 16-year-olds admitted to being involved in forcing over the cliff the log that killed Schafer.

She was at the park taking senior portraits for six high school seniors when the incident happened. Schafer’s oldest son, John Schafer, is a Dayton resident.

But according to a release this week from the Hocking County Prosecutor’s Office, additional charges of murder, felonious assault, and involuntary manslaughter have been filed against the juveniles. Additionally, the state is requesting a mandatory bind-over to the Hocking County Common Pleas Court to try both juveniles as adults, said Hocking County Assistant Prosecutor Jorden Meadows.

“What I can say right now is we took some extensive time to review all of the evidence because this is a serious case and these are two 16-year olds,” Meadows said. “My boss, Benjamin Fickel, poured over the evidence and thought about it for a very long time and reached out to some colleagues, and at the end of the day we felt that these charges were appropriate — and under the law, if you’re 16 and you’re charged with murder, called a tier one offense in juvenile court, then it is an automatic bind-over.”

Churcheus and Buckley were taken into custody by ODNR on Oct. 10 after a tipster told authorities that one of the teens sent text messages to a classmate stating that he had done something serious at the park, according to WBNS TV in Columbus.

A preliminary hearing has been set for both juveniles on Nov. 5 in Hocking County Juvenile Court. The juveniles will remain in detention.

John Schafer earlier this month said he learned from investigators that they had found the imprint of where the 80-pound log was before it was pushed, and that it could not have naturally rolled from the cliff.

More information still needs to come from the investigation, Schafer said then. But despite grappling with the tragedy of his mother's death, Schafer said if it was just bad teenage judgment, he would likely show up in court to make a statement that this incident should not ruin their lives.